Οι Έλληνες του Καναδά σήμερα ξεπερνούν τις 350,000 και είναι δυναμικοί, άξιοι και δημιουργικοί στις πόλεις που ζουν. Είναι πολύ περήφανοι για την ελληνική κουλτούρα τους, την θρησκεία τους, τα ήθη και τα έθιμά και την σύγχρονη Ευρωπαϊκή πορεία της μητέρας Ελλάδας. Από την μια άκρη του Καναδά ως την άλλη, τα παιδιά τους μαθαίνουν ελληνική ιστορία, μιλάνε την ελληνική γλώσσα, χορεύουν ελληνικούς παραδοσιακούς χορούς και τραγουδάνε τα δημοφιλέστερα σύγχρονα ελληνικά τραγούδια. Οργανώνονται Εθνικές παρελάσεις, δημοφιλή Ελληνικά Φεστιβάλ σε διάφορες πόλεις κάθε χρόνο, πολιτιστικές εκδηλώσεις, πανηγυρικοί εορτασμοί στις 78 ελληνορθόδοξες εκκλησίες και αναμφίβολα υπάρχει οικογενειακή και επαγγελματική πρόοδο στον κοινωνικό, πολιτικό και οικονομικό χώρο όπου δραστηριοποιούνται καθημερινά.
Οι Έλληνες του Καναδά έχουν πλήρως προσαρμοστεί στις τοπικές κοινωνίες όπου ζουν, χωρίς όμως να έχουν πολιτιστικά αφομοιωθεί, διατηρώντας την δική τους ξεχωριστή πολιτιστική ταυτότητα και κληρονομιά.
History of Greeks in Canada
The Greek-Canadian journalist George Vlassis in The Greeks in Canada (1953) indicates that Greek seamen had visited Canadian shores prior to 1800. In 1592 Juan de Fuca (Yannis Phokas), a Greek mariner from Cephalonia, explored the coast of what is now British Columbia while navigating for the Spanish navy. The Greek revolution (1821–30) launched Greek immigration to Canada. The pioneers were mainly from the Aegean islands and the Peloponnesus, especially poor villages in Arcadia and Laconia. Next came villagers from the mainland. In 1871 only thirty-nine persons of Greek origin were known to be living in Canada; by 1900 there were about 290 – most of them young, single males who lived in boarding-houses and saw themselves as sojourners. Some of these men married non-Greeks.
After 1900 immigration increased considerably, spurred by growing poverty, oppressive taxation, and political persecution at home and attracted by Canada’s policy of importing cheap labour for development, especially in transportation. But Greeks, as well as others from eastern and southern Europe, were “non-preferred” immigrants. In 1912 there were 5,740 persons in Canada of Greek origin, and in 1931, 9,450.
To people with lives disrupted by Italian and German occupation of Greece (1941–44), civil war (1946–49), and high unemployment, Ottawa’s more liberal post-war immigration policy became attractive. New regulations emphasized sponsorship of relatives and friends and admission of agriculturalists, domestic servants, nurses’ aids, and other workers nominated by Canadian employers. Between 1945 and 1971 more than 107,000 Greeks immigrated to Canada, with about 80 percent being sponsored by relatives or co-villagers. Unskilled workers – the largest group – became factory workers, restaurant employees, cleaners, and janitors. From 1950 to 1970 more than 10,500 young women (13 percent of all Greek immigrants to Canada) arrived as domestic servants. Most were in their twenties, came from poor Greek families, and had little education. Some were refugees from Iron Curtain countries who entered Greece during the civil war of 1946–49. These women soon sponsored family members and found jobs in factories or restaurants. In time most married and raised children, many of whom received college or university degrees. Some, with their husbands, established businesses such as restaurants.
Greek immigration to Canada reached its peak in 1967 and then declined gradually, probably because of improvement in the Greek economy, temporary emigration to Germany, political stability in Greece after 1974, and restrictive Canadian immigration policies. Such a downward shift may have decreased the ethnic group’s social cohesion and its ability to maintain its identity. The sex ratio of Greek immigrants to Canada has also been changing since the early 1940s. In 1941 only 26 percent of the Greeks in Canada were females; by 1971, 47 percent.
After World War II there was also slow immigration of Greek Cypriots to Canada; they came from Cyprus itself as well as from other countries such as Greece and England. In 1963 an influx resulted from the uprising of the Turkish Cypriot minority and the bombings of towns and villages in southeastern Cyprus. Many Greek Cypriots, especially tradesmen and professionals, immigrated to Canada. The largest wave arrived in 1974 after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus; 200,000 Greeks were uprooted from northern Cyprus and became refugees in their homeland. Many immigrated to Canada as refugees or sponsored by relatives, and others, to study – almost all spoke English. Occupations represented included tradesmen, secretaries, nurses, bank managers and tellers, franchise store owners, chartered accountants, doctors, and professors; some Greek Cypriots obtained jobs in federal and provincial offices. Most settled in Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, and Kitchener. In 1997 Canada had over 25,000 people of Greek Cypriot descent, most of them in or near to Metro Toronto.
The 1991 census numbered Greek Canadians who provided only one ethnic origin at 151,150; multiple responses increased the figure to 191,480. Leaders of Greek-Canadian communities estimated that in 1997 there were over 250,000 people of Greek descent from various countries living in Canada.
The earliest Greek immigrants, who came to Canada between the 1840s and 1860s, settled in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Prior to 1905 urban settlements were observed as well in Halifax, London, and Winnipeg. This pattern has remained constant; according to the 1991 census, 68 percent of Greek Canadians (or Canadians with wholly or partial Greek ancestry) lived in Montreal and Greater Toronto, and about 84 percent in Ontario and Quebec.
In large Canadian cities Greeks tend to cluster. An immigrant’s accommodation would typically first be with relatives or co-villagers and then nearby. Large local concentrations would develop their own restaurants, coffee-houses, pastry shops, food markets, travel agencies, banks, social clubs, media, and churches, and Greek-Canadian accountants, doctors, and lawyers would establish offices. Montreal’s Jean Talon Street and Park Avenue and Toronto’s Danforth Avenue are classic examples of virtual institutional completeness. Many Greek businesses, such as restaurants, food markets, souvenir shops, and night clubs, attract large numbers of non-Greeks.
There are two possible explanations for urban concentration. First, many Greek pioneers were sailors who visited Montreal and Vancouver, liked the surroundings, and decided to stay. A chain of Greek immigrants followed their compatriots or relatives, often arriving via New York, which is close to Toronto and Montreal. Kin and hometown networks may shape immigrant settlement and community development over an extended period. For Greeks who emigrated for economic or other reasons, primary ties might determine the choice of city. It was through relatives and hometown friends in Canada that many Greek immigrants made their first contact with Canadian society and found their first jobs.
Second, many Greeks disliked farming – a depressed way of life in Greece that they had rejected. Canada’s cities were attractive to immigrants who wanted to work hard, make their fortune, and start their own business or return to a more comfortable life in Greece. Some immigrants, who could not adjust to harsh working conditions in restaurants and factories and to the values of the host society, soon returned to Greece. Others stayed for several years, made their small fortunes, and eventually returned to Greece, whence a few, unable to readjust, returned to Canada.